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Sounders saying all right things about CCL

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Fredy Montero says the Sounders want to "make history" during the CONCACAF Champions League.
Fredy Montero says the Sounders want to "make history" during the CONCACAF Champions League.

The #TrophiesNotFriendlies movement was formally created by our own Dave Clark. He's the one who came up with the Twitter hashtag and he is the one who has been pushing the movement in various Internet and broadcast circles.

It's probably less than fair to say he created the over-arching concept, at least as it pertains to the Sounders, though. The credit -- or blame -- for that probably lies at the feet of the front office, who since the MLS team's inception has been pushing the idea that becoming an international brand involves play ing the world's biggest and best teams in matches that matter. From Majority Owner Joe Roth, through General Manager Adrian Hanauer, right down to the marketing department, the organization has presented the idea that the Sounders will be a team on the biggest stages, and one of the most recognizable brands in sports.

Right now, the only way for that to happen is to play them in tournaments such as the CONCACAF Champions League and, ultimately, at the FIFA Club World Cup.

Whether it was Steve Zakuani and Sigi Schmid openly comparing the CCL to Europe's much more famous version or Fredy Montero basically saying that he'd rather play in this game than the MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United, it's pretty clear the Sounders have received that message.

"This is our Champions League," Zakuani said. "We all grew up watching the European Champions League. It's the same magnitude, but it's our region. I think we're going to be focused on that game (as opposed to the All-Star Game)."

But before the Sounders, and their fans, get to face more high-profile opponents such as Mexico's Monterrey or Costa Rica's Saprissa, they must first advance to the group stage of the competition. In order to do that they'll have to figure out how to beat El Salvadoran Clausura champion Isidro Metapan, a side that few seem to know much about.

Among the things we do know (or more accurately what we think we know) are these:

  • Since 2007, Metapan has won four league titles (the Primera Division, like many American soccer leagues, plays two seasons a year) and they have played in five finals since 2005
  • In May, Metapan won the Clausura which gave them a title in three of the past four seasons and at least one title in four straight years
  • Edwin Portillo has been the manager since 2006, meaning he has won at least one title in all but one season at the helm
  • Rodolfo Paolo Suarez is the older brother of Uruguay and Ajax star Luis Suarez
  • Anel Canales and Mark Blanco are the team's top scorers

"They are a team that we have an idea of their shape" Schmid said. "We have an idea of their organization. We have seen a couple video tapes of games that they have played. I have talked to some El Salvadoran people that I know who have given me some information. They played a game in L.A. on the weekend against the Hollywood Hitmen, a PDL team (Metapan won 1-0). So I talked to people that have seen that game. So we have a fairly good idea as to what they are about."

Schmid estimates that with the significant Salvadoran population in the United States that Metapan probably has a greater ability to scout his team than vice-versa.

"He's a good coach, so he'll have done his research," Schmid said of Portillo.

Research for these games will consist of almost no personal experience, though. Players will not be familiar with one another in the way that they are with opponents in league matches. Realistically, this two-match series -- the Sounders will visit San Salvador for the second leg on Tuesday -- could hinge on how quickly the teams adjust.

It could also hinge on which team is more motivated. As the representative from a much smaller and poorer country, it's hard to imagine that Metapan will have a problem there.

If the words of the Sounders are truthful, it shouldn't be a problem for them either. 

"We want to make history with this team playing in its first international cup," Montero said through an interpreter. "So with our fans behind us, we want to make history."